Open Source Journalism

Journalism and media are undergoing a massive transformation. Many inside are feeling the pain, not the least of which are the CBC’s 800 employees about to get the axe. Clay Shirky recently wrote an important piece about “thinking the unthinkable” in newspapers, highly recommended reading. I took note of this in his concluding paragraph:

For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.

My work with TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin has been fascinating and rewarding in this context of massive change in the media business model and questions about the future of journalism as craft and practice. I think that what is important during this transformation is to unpack, unbundle and reconfigure the elements that we think of when we think about “broadcaster” or “newspaper” and reimagine how they can be reconfigured to deliver more value to more people. Value that people want to pay for.

The Agenda: on the Road project is an interesting experiment along the lines of what Shirky describes above. What began as a way to bring TVO’s flagship current affairs program into local communities has developed into an ongoing experiment in open source journalism and community engagement.

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ConnectIT: Global Knowledge Cities

Yesterday, I participated in a panel discussion at the ConnectIT conference, entitled Global Knowledge Cities: Does Toronto make the cut?:

Among other factors, powerful global corporations, emergence of Web 2.0 technologies, and the increased ease of information displacement have changed our social landscapes. In light of this shift, how will cities, like Toronto, be using technology to gain a competitive advantage in the changing global landscape? Are they improving the quality of life for its residents? What defines a fully developed/knowledge city? Where does Toronto stand?

Diane Francis with her blackberry at Connect I.T. on TwitPicThe panel was moderated by the engaging James Norrie, Associate Dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management with fellow esteemed panelists Dave Wallace, CIO – City of Toronto, John Cannon, CIO – Toronto Transit Commission and Diane Francis, Editor-at-Large, National Post. The panel was introduced by our Twitter-obsessed Mayor David Miller (@mayormiller), who likes to tweet photos of journalists, clearly feeling empowered and tickled by the opportunity to turn the camera on the press.

It was a wide-ranging conversation, and provided a great opportunity for the City of Toronto to tell the audience of Ryerson Information Technology Management students, alumni, faculty and members of the technology community and industry about the City’s initiatives and vision for the future.

Congratulations to organizers, Matthew Merritt, Dimitry Sapon and Jaime Sorgente (@jsorgent) for a very pro-style conference. As a tech conference created by students for the wider Ryerson and Toronto community I was very impressed with their professionalism and attention to detail.

There was a lot of audience interest in the TTC’s new information initiatives, include next bus/train information, and the upcoming trip planner and Google Transit integration. Dave Wallace shared an update about the City’s 311 program, spoke about the important lessons they learned at the Web 2.0 Summit about fast, iterative web development approaches and listening to the community. He is also clearly excited to be a leader in municipal open data and is working out some of the difficult issues around privacy, standards and industry and community collaboration. He did drop a little mention about dark fibre in the city which I had hoped we could follow-up, but we ran out of time. Diane Francis opened the panel discussion with a high-level overview of Toronto’s natural advantages as a global financial capital and reviewed the current state of the imploding media industry and the radical transformation underway in this important sector of Toronto’s economy. Read her very insightful piece, It’s not about AIG, stupid…, about the massive global financial system bailout happening with AIG as a conduit.

I was there to bring a provocation about the creative city, the importance of social technology and place, the future of community and the responsibility and opportunity for students and graduates to get involved in co-creating our future city. I was pleased that both the Mayor and Dave Wallace recognized ChangeCamp as an important forum for exploring future community collaboration, and that John Cannon also recognized the impact of TransitCamp in helping inform the future direction of and it’s customer information initiatives.

I am excited by the growing momentum we have in Toronto right now towards open, participatory, creative and effective government that recognizes how technology can enable a transformation in our city. 2009 is looking very promising!

Below the jump are my full prepared remarks for the panel discussion. Enjoy.

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